It is International Women's day but more than business as a women led enterprise, my thoughts are with history as my daughters are in grade XII and X. Elder one is in the Karnataka state board hence we are jointly learning about Pulikeshi, Amoghvarman and how important Kanchi was a town to various kings. I also feel anger and sadness thso much that is important to us as Indians was never taught to us. So when I hear the cry for changing history books, I say start yesterday! With mom as yoga teacher, we have adopted 70% indian system of medicine and 30% western.
We did take vaccines but also did kadha and rasams. As I slowly transformed from IT professional to an activist, what I had learnt about menstruation also started changing by learning new facts and has now a mix of learning from our amazing Ritukala ceremonies to Louise Hay, from cloth pads to menstrual cups! So as I listen to our Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, I feel that we as Indians have finally started feeling comfortable in our skin and are willing to relook at what we have been taught and build our own perspective, to take our stand based on our interests without always seeking comfort in a camp.
Let's go back to history again and guess who else is missing from history books. Women! History would have us believe that it is men who carry civilisational load but look around! Men from every part of the world look similar but it is women in their colourful dresses - sarees and salwar kameez for us Indian women, who are standing on world stages bringing their culture proudly with them! As my colleague Rupal brings to office food, a Gujarati married to someone from Kerala, she ensures their kids celebrate both the culture and festivals. I predict that in the next decade, women will arrive in the business world in their own skin and can stop pretending to be a better man! or play by their rules! I feel we have lived in a work world designed by men for too long. Who says women have to be like men, forgetting home and kids and working 12-18 hours if they want to rise to the top! In Stonesoup, PTM is a good enough reason to change review date and time. Why have a second parent also going missing from our kids' lives? We care for different things and corporate culture will reflect that. We like collective credit and decision making and nurturing rather than alpha being rising up thru pack kind of atmosphere. We don't need to mould women as men, nor do reverse, going forward, the ideal is when each individual functions according to what feels natural to them on their journey to success.
Back to women and leadership, Data confirms that women led organisations are being treated poorly, being starved of finances. Vineeta Singh, of IIT and IIM pedigree, was still asked about her husband before the cheque! https://youtu.be/C1pQE1aLX7A And she was a woman founder talking about women's makeup products! Imagine us at Stonesoup in a men dominated space of waste! To top it, we don't want to manage waste better, we want to eliminate it - change the industry like Steve Jobs did! Looking at our insta feed u didn't find waste pics but more of fun and celebrations? That's how we women have learnt to teach our kids about good food - talk about taste but keep focus on nutrition!
btw, just love this video.. Aapna time bhi aayega!
Back to our team, we were an all women team and Karon during the UNO Seed program talked about diversity doesn't mean just more women but building an organisation that works for both. It has taken some learning and changes (most women in stonesoup work till 12-4pm, men till 6pm, salaries always determined by value they add). UN Women Industry Disruptor taught us to be comfortable in our women's skin. We care for people, the planet and profits. Survival and thriving of the company has to go hand in hand with that of our children and community. Compostable pads, 24 hour composters, two most popular greenwashing solutions in our categories, we wouldn't even touch. Fruits like us will always win even when Mcdonalds creates more noise. Like fruits, we will also nourish the producer and the buyer and not make super profits for producer at expense of buyer!
Feeling sorry for us fruits? Don’t! We are a set of 3 companies, 2 for profit and 1 non profit. Rekke became self-sustaining in 2020 and this year Aaditi will become self-sustainable too. Trust is winning the confidence of CSR to do path breaking work. This takes a ton of load off our head and we know we will continue to grow slowly but steadily. Not by money raised from investors but by that paid to us by customers. Big Funding would have allowed us to make more mistakes faster, and yet, starved of funding, has increased our creativity. We will live. And thrive. Remember, we as women have lived for decades without our stories in history being written and yet all culture wars are being fought over what we wear - bindi or burqa. Ask us please, It is not wars we want or work towards, we are getting ready for joy and celebrations. Let me now stop, make Gujiya n thandai n get ready to celebrate holi. And the year ahead, there will be one celebration after another. See pictures of our work and you wouldn't see wars but celebrations. We bring community together and in that moment, we as human beings are able to think beyond our wins but become one for all. We will not win any wars as that is not our thing. We will have co opted everyone and before you know it, we will be in a sustainable world where each takes responsibility for their waste, and at times that of few others too..
When I took a mommy break, I lost my confidence. Funnily enough, my in-laws were supportive of me going back to work but most women on my side stopped working post children. I had to un-learn that. I was told home business like network businesses were for me but going out of home for 9-5 would make me a bad mother. It took me a long time to find myself again.
Enough of guilt I would say! I am a great mom and can be a great woman leader. Some days mom role has priority and some days work. But staying close and living deeply is where a lot of ideas for business have come. When my husband Ralph was undergoing treatment for cancer 7 years back, we were asked to use only chemical free and natural personal care products. I used 100s and found for myself home soapers whose products I trusted. And this, many years later became stonesoup’s personal care product range.
I had worked for 18 months in a work environment but had been tough where managers demanded and berated for mistakes. Coming to stonesoup, I found supportive colleagues. Each one openly discussed the mistakes they made and everyone supported each other. I could try new things, many didn’t work, some did and I gained confidence as I learnt from my mistakes. From joining as Stonesoup saathi in 2016, i am now CEO of Rekke - the personal care business of Stonesoup. I am full of life and energy and want a full life. I love teaching dance in my community during Navratri, I volunteer for tons of community events, am RWA president this year, am a master chef daily and each festival I give a taste of my roots (born and adopted) to all those around me. My friends call me google devi as I know the use of weeds and natural remedies - I love learning and want to know it all!
At 32, as i look back at Tazannum at 25, she had her whole world around her son, husband and relatives. Home to school 1 km away was her limit of solo travel. Her seat in her husband’s BMW was always passengers. I would tell her to work on her own, be independent. Stand for herself.
I was totally dependent on my husband and after his sudden demise during covid, I was reduced to a state where I didn't have Rs 10. This made me realise that all girls should be independent, and be able to handle their finances. I had a BCom degree but had no working skills. I found it difficult to find work. I joined Stonesoup as part time work to send messages to customers. I was given many other tasks which didn’t go well till I found myself in Stonesoup Trust where I found my home! And I started to learn with the help of my colleagues. I remember the jitters I had before I was supposed to go to Siddipet for a project. I didn’t have the confidence to travel along with my son in a bus so I only travelled when someone else from office was. From there, I have come a long way as i recently did a trip to Jwahar, adivasi belt in Maharashtra, solo. I am still learning but am already leading programs and these are something I enjoy. I didn’t have the confidence to talk to 2-3 strangers, now I can do sessions with 100s and talk about sustainable menstruation. I want to take bigger and bigger responsibilities and one day head the organisation! My ‘to do’ for next one year is to improve my managerial and financial skills. I am still battling depression and stress and don’t find that I am able to sleep a full night but compared to post death of my husband, I am half up through the deep emotional pit I had found myself in. I have confidence that I am going to survive and thrive.
When I felt my kids were old enough, I asked the universe to be part of something meaningful. I joined Stonesoup Trust but quickly found myself handling social media in Rekke due to my creative ability. Starting my journey with Stonesoup, I found a girl gang who loved packing lunch boxes and also changing the world in every beautiful way. To new leanings and new destinations!
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